5. Julius Erving
A man who defied the possibilities of gravity on the court, Julius Erving was one of the most dynamic, charming, and gifted athletes to ever grace the hardwood. Named the NBA’s most valuable player in 1981, Erving was a tenacious wing-man who was not only an offensive juggernaut, but a complete beast on the defensive end of the floor. Named to the 1976 All-NBA Defensive First Team, Erving is in the top 40 all-time for career steals.
Time and time again, we see that the greatest NBA players are able to lead and will their team to the NBA Championships, and Julius Erving is no exception, having taken his Philadelphia 76ers to the 1983 NBA Finals, sweeping Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers to a historical ring.
4. John Havlicek
“Hondo” was one of the most prolific winners in all of sports history, having won the NBA finals 8 times with the storied and legendary franchise, the Boston Celtics. Havlicek was named the Finals MVP in 1974, and was named to the All-NBA Defensive First Team five times. In the 1970-1971 season, Havlicek averaged an unprecedented 25 points and 10 rebounds per game, a feat that is rarely seen for players that aren’t named Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaq, and Bill Russell (so basically, for anyone who isn’t a legendary center).
A true leader and winner, Hondo was one of the game’s most unstoppable wing players of all time.
3. Scottie Pippen
Once considered to live “in the shadow” of the great Michael Jordan, as being “Robin” to Michael Jordan’s “Batman,” Scottie Pippen has lately been analyzed as one of the best small forwards of all time, and that he was a distinguished talent on par with the likes of Michael Jordan. You know what that means: Jordan Jocks, pay your respects to this legend!
Six time NBA Champion who led a Jordan-less Bulls to the 1994 NBA Playoffs, Pippen lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals on a foul-call many analysts, including ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, to be completely incorrect and in favor of the other team. He also led the Portland Trail Blazers to a Game 7 against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000, where his team blew a 15 point lead to the eventual champion LA Lakers.
Still, depsite his shortcomings without Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen was an elite defender, having made the all-defensive team eight times. He was also an NBA all-star seven times, and helped carry his team to an unprecedented 72 wins in the 1995-1996 NBA season. Pippen was a juggernaut on the force, and will be remembered as one of the greatest players of all time.
2. Larry Bird
Larry Bird was a phenomenal force on the hardwood, having led his Celtics to 3 championships in the 80s, taking down elite, worshipped, and hallowed athletes along the way, including Magic Johnson and his “Showtime” Lakers. Like Kevin Durant, Larry Bird was one of the most efficient small forwards of all time, also being a prestigious member of the 50-40-90 club. A 3x MVP and current GM of the Indiana Pacers, the 1980 Rookie of the year, a 9x All-NBA First team selection, and a 2x Finals MVP, Larry “Legend” Bird was widely considered the very best small forward of all time, until another name took him off of his hallowed throne.
1. Lebron James
You have known who he was since he was 18 years old and was picked number 1 in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now with 2 championships, a fourth-consecutive finals appearance, 4 MVPs, a scoring title, 2 Olympic Gold Medals, and the title of “Best Basketball Player in the Entire World,” Lebron James is unrivalled on the list of all time greatest small forwards, and soon may top the list of all-time greatest players.
When he was the Cavaliers, he took his team on his back at the age of 22 to the 2007 NBA Finals, where his young, inexperienced team were swept by the San Antonio Spurs. Still, despite having lackluster talent besides him, Lebron James was able to carry his team to the 2007 NBA Finals essentially on his own.
Now in 2014, Lebron has opted out of his contract as the world desperately waits to see his next move (as of the time of this writing). Here’s to another decade of greatness from the greatest small forward of all time.